Open main menu

Holland, Richard (fl.1450) (DNB00)

HOLLAND, Sir RICHARD (fl. 1450), Scottish poet, author of the alliterative poem in the Bannatyne MS. called ‘The Buke of the Howlat,’ lived in the reign of James II, and was a partisan of the Douglases. He wrote the poem for ‘Ane Dow (i.e. Dove) of Dunbar, dowit with ane Douglas,’ a description which identifies the lady with Elizabeth, daughter of James Dunbar, earl of Moray, who married Archibald, son of James, seventh earl of Douglas. The marriage took place about 1442, and the fall of the Douglas family in 1452 [see Douglas, William, eighth earl] fixes the date of the poem between 1442 and 1452; it was evidently written during the ascendency of the Douglases, whose virtues from the days of Good Sir James it celebrates. It is from this poem, probably, that the famous epithet of the Douglases, ‘Tender and true,’ originated.

After the defeat of Arkinholm in 1455, in which Archibald, earl of Moray, was slain, his brother James, earl of Douglas, and his followers fled to England; and in an act of the Scottish parliament in 1482 a pardon offered to those who should return to their allegiance specially excepts ‘Schir Richard Holland.’ This has been reasonably conjectured to be the poet, and Irving adds, ‘nor is it improbable that he had been the Earl of Moray's chaplain.’

The ‘Buke of the Howlat,’ like most of the alliterative class, is tedious to modern readers, but contains some curious antiquarian matter. The allegory of the owl dressed in the feathers of other birds was supposed by Pinkerton to refer to James II, but this view, which partly rested on the false reading of a word, ‘crowne’ for ‘rowme,’ has been proved groundless by Sir Walter Scott and Mr. David Laing. It certainly seems to have no application to the king, but it is impossible not to suspect some personal allusion besides the general satire on pride. More interesting than the allegory itself, which is explained at full length by Irving (Hist. of Scottish Poetry, p. 166), and in Mr. Laing's preface, are the incidental passages, which give notices of early heraldic blazons, of the musical instruments then in use, and of the highland bards, already a subject for jest to the poets of the lowlands. The singular prophecy,

Our soveraine of Scotland his armes to knowe,
Quilk sall be lord and ledar
Our [or over] braid Brettane all quhar,
As Sanct Mergaretis air,

there seems no reason to suppose interpolated. Holland was esteemed by subsequent Scottish poets. His poem is referred to by Blind Harry, or Henry the Minstrel [q. v.] William Dunbar [q. v.] names him in his ‘Lament for the Makaris,’ and Lyndsay as one of the poets ‘who, though they be dead, their libelles [i.e. books] are yet living.’ A few quarto pages of a printed edition of ‘The Howlat’ were found by D. Laing in the old covers of a Protocol Book written before 1530, but no other portions of this edition are known. ‘The Buke of the Howlat’ was edited for the Bannatyne Club from the Bannatyne MS. in 1823 by Mr. Laing. A reprint appeared at Paisley, 1882.

[Laing's Preface, with notes by Sir W. Scott; Irving's Hist. of Scottish Poetry.]

Æ. M.